Decanter columnist, wine writer and gardener Hugh Johnson has been awarded the OBE in the Queen's New Year Honours List.
He said he is ‘quietly pleased’ to be awarded the gong for ‘both things I love best’ – wine and gardening.
Johnson, 67, is not only a celebrated wine expert but also a horticulturalist with a particular interest in trees. He has published several books on gardening – notably the International Book of Trees and the Gardener’s Companion, the Principles and Practice of the Gardener’s Art.
His OBE was awarded for services to winemaking and horticulture. As his biography on amazon.com states, Johnson has been ‘tasting, buying, promoting and writing about wine for over 40 years’ including stints as director of Chateau Latour, Wine Correspondent of the Sunday Times and many other posts.
Decanter’s Man of the Year 1995, he writes a bi-monthly column in the magazine. He is the author of numerous best-selling wine books, including the annual Pocket Wine Book, which has sold more than 7.5m copies.
He told decanter.com, ‘It’s a great honour. And what I’m quietly pleased about is that the two things I love – the things I’ve been plugging away at for years – have been recognised.’
He also said he was slightly bemused by the reference to his winemaking skills, as although he has been closely associated with Latour, and is a partner in the Royal Tokaji Wine Company in Hungary, ‘you couldn’t actually call me a winemaker’.
Johnson’s garden, at Saling Hall, a 17th century manor house in Essex, is open to the public once a week during the summer months. It is noted for its trees.
And his favourite tree? ‘That’s an difficult question. It would have to be my best oak. It’s a superb specimen, 350 years old, and very big. Everybody who sees it goes “Ooh” and “Aah”.’
Fellow wine writer Steven Spurrier said the award was ‘richly deserved’.
‘The sprightly and effervescent Hugh is now in danger of entering Grand Old Man territory, richly deserved, of course. Just last week I saw his name on a brass plaque and his inimitable signature on a vast barrel of venerable Amarone in the Masi cellars in Valpolicella. It was said of the Duke of Wellington that “he had more official titles than hairs in his wig”. Were he to wear a wig, the same would apply to Hugh. Were I to wear a hat, I would doff it in admiration.’
The OBE (Officer of the British Empire) is awarded to 858 people every year. It ranks fourth in the hierarchy of the royal awards known collectively as the Order of the British Empire.
Written by Adam Lechmere